House conservatives are coalescing around an alternative plan that would delay implementation of Obamacare by one year and use the money saved to restore the sequester-mandated spending cuts, in exchange for approving either a must-pass budget bill or legislation to raise the debt ceiling.
The concept was hatched by conservative House Republicans disappointed with a GOP leadership proposal that would send to the Senate a budget bill that funds the government beyond Sept. 30 but allows the Democratic chamber to approve that spending while simultaneously voting down an attached amendment stripping all funding for the Affordable Care Act. Conservative activists are pushing House Republicans to leverage a government shutdown as a means to defund Obamacare.
House conservatives are sympathetic to this strategy, which involves passing a budget that defunds Obamacare and attempts to pin the blame for the inevitable government shutdown on President Obama. But even these Republicans recognize the political risk of a government shutdown, and they are now trying to devise an alternative to the leadership proposal that would still cut Obamacare.
“My take is, a consensus is all beginning to build,” Rep. John Fleming, R-La., said Wednesday as he exited a closed-door meeting of the Republican Study Committee, a group of conservative House Republicans. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., attended the meeting, but did not address RSC members, those present said.
Republican leaders cancelled a vote on their Obamacare proposal this week, acknowledging that they didn't have the votes needed to clear the House.
RSC meetings can be raucous and emotive, with caucus members occasionally venting their unhappiness with leadership and its various plans. But members exiting Wednesday’s conclave described the discussion as constructive, an attempt to “thread the needle” between GOP leaders’ desire to avoid a politically risky government shutdown and conservative demands that the upcoming fiscal negotiations be used to block implementation of Obamacare, which will accelerate in October.
The conservative alternative to delay Obamacare by a year and restore the sequester-related spending cuts could be part of the government funding bill or the debt ceiling legislation. But House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., made a “compelling case” for using the debt ceiling legislation to negotiate the Obamacare delay, rather than the budget bill favored by Tea Party activists, according to one Republican who attended the RSC meeting.
“That is better ground for us to fight on,” said this GOP member.
Meanwhile, the GOP would likely jumpstart negotiations to raise the federal government's $16 trillion borrowing limit, which the Obama administration said will be reached between Oct. 18 to Nov. 5. Republicans might also choose to immediately pass a bill that was based on the conservative alternative in attempt to put the pressure to avoid breaching the debt ceiling on Obama and Senate Democrats.
“We’re trying to find the sweet spot and do what’s right for America,” Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., said. "Republicans want to keep the government open; we’re not advocating for a shutdown."